An Issan Feast at “Soi Polo Chicken” Off Wireless Road, Bangkok

I was lucky enough to have friends visiting Bangkok for work recently and we arranged to meet up with friends of theirs who also live in Bangkok for drinks and dinner. They booked a table for us at Soi Polo, a family run restaurant on a little street just off Wireless road that seems to go by the same name. Soi Polo is an Issan (North-East Thailand) restaurant specializing in “Gai Todht” or Fried Chicken so long term readers of this blog can imagine how happy my friend D was! We left the ordering to Dao (alright we had a little input!) and sat back as a plethora of different dishes began to arrive and our table disappeared from sight, hidden by all the food we had ordered.

To make their famous chicken, they brine it then fry it until the skin turns a rich golden colour before serving it piled high with crisp fried garlic chips that I actually enjoyed more than the chicken itself! The gang certainly seemed happy with the chicken (although ordering 2 between the 7 or so of us might have been slightly over optimistic what with all the other dishes we ordered!)

I have read that their “Som Tam” is also highly rated although we ordered a vegetarian version which I have to say I was not overly impressed with. It wasn’t as spicy as I like and definitely lacked flavour in the absence of the dried prawns.

I will need to go back to try the genuine version another time as I noticed on their menu they list about ½ dozen different versions. Much better was the “Larb Gai” which is minced chicken with chilli, mint and different herbs and spices. I have seen this on plenty of the street food stalls but shied away from ordering it before but am now fully converted!

I would like to try the pork version next and will try to hunt down a good version of that in the coming weeks. We had two different types of grilled meats, “Kor Moo Yang” grilled, sliced pork and “Neur Yang” a beef version. The beef reminded me a little of the beef flank I had in Japan and I wonder if it was the same cut of meat?

I mostly left the beef to the others and focused on the pork version. Apart from the BKK natives present, none of us had tried the “Yum Pla Duck Foo” before. This is a fried spicy catfish salad where the fish is usually grilled or roasted and then the meat flaked off and fried until it has a sort of fluffy appearance. It’s quite a unique preparation – a sort of fish floss if you will, which is then served with a green mango and a chilli sauce on the side. Apparently this is a much loved drinking snack (like our beloved kozhuva and chilli prawns from Spice Junction in Little India) and it was washed down with (more than) a few beers in no time at all. This is one of those dishes that I have seen before but never thought to order as it just looks quite odd – sadly my picture of this came out very blurry as I was rushing to take pictures so people could get on with the important matter of EATING!

The “Sai Krok” or Issan/E-san pork sausage and the “Sai Ua” or Chiang Mai sausages we had were another example of a good beer snack (although let’s be honest most things go beautifully with beer – especially where spice is involved!) I believe both of them are made essentially the same way, minced pork mixed with toasted rice and spices like cloves, chilli, galangal and kaffir lime leaves with the “Sai Ua” having red curry paste and extra chilli inside it – almost being studded with them.

Of the dishes I was more familiar with, the “Todd Mun Pla Gray” or Curried Fish Cakes were note worthy, not as good as ones I tried in Hua Hin but close. This is a good example of a dish done so poorly in the Thai restaurants I have been to in the UK that I never think to order them anymore.

Actually being in Thailand, I am gaining a new appreciation for them as they are so far removed from versions I have tried in the UK and actually I quite like them now! I only managed a spoonful of the tom yum that was being passed around the table which was also very different to versions I have tried previously, it looked more like a broth than anything else, with chunks of meat and fresh herbs to garnish it and it was a very “clean” taste if that makes sense?

I think we paid about 500 baht a head for what was far too much food than we could manage and it’s safe to say the vast majority of that was down to the beers – most of the dishes were between 40 and 100baht each with the chickens coming in at 200 baht each. We had such a fun night, great food and great company – what more could you ask for? Brilliantly they also deliver so I will have to give that a go one night (although I wonder if they would be able to understand my order if I phoned it in?) after work.

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